A four-month union boycott of eight major Los Angeles-area hotels is costing the facilities millions of dollars, but so far it's failed to achieve its intended result of moving along collective bargaining negotiations.
The Westin Century Plaza Hotel & Spa and the other hotels locked in a labor dispute have lost at least $5 million in canceled meeting, banquet and convention business, according to Local 11 of Unite HERE a figure not disputed by the hotels.
It's likely the hotels have lost even more business from conventions and other events that have not been scheduled because of the boycott, though hotel representatives are not willing to release exact numbers.
"The cost of the boycott is becoming substantial," acknowledged Fred Muir, a consultant to the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council, which is bargaining on behalf of the hotels. "(The extent) is what we are not prepared to talk about."
The 2,800 member local of housekeepers, maintenance people and other hotel employees targeted the hotels on Nov. 11 after months of negotiations failed to produce a contract.
Aside from wage and benefit increases, a big stumbling block has been a union demand for the contract to end in 2006, coinciding with the expiration dates in other cities. This presumably would give the union more power as a massive collective bargaining unit.
There hasn't been a negotiating session since Feb. 7 and as of late last week no new ones had been scheduled.
The California Teachers Association, part of the 10,000-member delegation of the National Education Association that will reserve 42,000 room nights in early July for its annual week-long convention, also will not patronize the hotels.
L.A. Inc., the city's convention bureau, estimates the event will pump $17.2 million into the area's economy. Also being affected are bellhops, waitresses and bartenders, whose income from tips has been reduced.
"We respect the rights of those employees and will not patronize those establishments," said Becky Zoglman, spokeswoman for the CTA. "We are already looking for other hotels."
The hotels are not budging from their negotiating position. "The hotel is financially stable so being hurt a little is OK," said Harris Chan, general manager of the Century Plaza Hotel.
One reason the hotels may not be budging: the area is seeing an increase in room reservations. Daily average occupancy rates across the county jumped to 71.6 percent in 2004, up from 67.4 percent the year before. And downtown L.A. hotels averaged 61.3 percent last year, up from 54.9 percent in 2003.
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